Syrian rebels control nearly all villages on Israeli border Ehud Barak

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"This is still minor," he told AFP news agency. "But the potential of it developing into something big and nasty is there.”

"Clearly, the Israeli government decision was to nip it in the bud and to respond strongly in order to send a clear message that it would not be tolerated."

Michael Eppel, a Middle East expert at Haifa University, said the violence appeared limited for now.

"The Syrian army is not in a position to do some big action; it's so busy elsewhere," he said. "But disorder, anarchy, this close to the border, is troublesome for Israel."

The army has so far said it believes the fire from Syria, including mortar shells and bullets, is accidental. But Rabinovich speculated that it could also represent the "local initiative" of a commander on the ground.

Whatever the impetus, Israeli officials have shown little appetite for escalation.

"The border has been quiet since the (1973) Yom Kippur war and we want it to stay that way," Israel President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday.

"None of us are keen on lighting fires or fanning the flames."

Continued Syrian fire, Rabinovich said, would force Israel to "walk a tightrope."

"They need to contain it, but to avoid it becoming a big drama or very serious," Eppel added. "They have to deter, okay, but not to make some additional crisis that will not serve Israel."

Whether or not the situation worsens, on-off peace talks about the return of the Golan are on deep freeze for now.

Up until mid-March 2011, when mass protests engulfed the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly involved in negotiations that would have seen Israel concede the Golan, despite its strategic importance.

"In the event of a war, it's the high ground... Being on the Golan Heights is a big advantage in military terms," Rabinovich said.

"Israel has a very important monitoring station on Mount Hermon and... the whole water regime here is fundamentally affected by what goes on in the Golan, he explained. That was a reference to the main water sources that feed the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee, which provide Israel with around 30 percent of its water.

Conceding the Golan would also be hard for Israelis psychologically, Rabinovich added.

"Israelis may lay a claim to the West Bank, but they don't go there, but Israelis do go to the Golan Heights, all the time," he said.

"But right now, it's not an issue," he added.

"The (Syrian) regime is doomed... so it's not a partner for negotiations, and nobody knows when the civil war will be over."

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